Speaking at the associated India-Australia CEOs Forum held in New Delhi yesterday, Universities Australia’s Chief Executive, Belinda Robinson commended the Australian Government on its tenacious pursuit of a CECA with India and its heavy emphasis on service industries including education.
“India represents an enormous opportunity for Australian education and training providers in assisting India to address the challenge of ensuring that its 190 million people between the ages of 18-25 are equipped with the skills and education needed to accelerate national development and prosperity,” said Ms Robinson.
“It was clear from yesterday’s discussions involving Indian and Australian chief executives from the education, energy, mining, financial, manufacturing, infrastructure, telecommunications and services sectors that there is a great deal to be gained by both nations in forging stronger trade engagement.
“The key take-out from these discussions is the acknowledgment on both sides that the time is right for us to come together to take the next step in driving an even a stronger economic relationship which includes education services.
“These opportunities are once in a generation and the university sector is pleased to be working closely with the Australian Government in helping to spur the momentum needed to have this important initiative finalised by the end of the year”, said Ms Robinson.
Governments support research collaboration between universities in both countries. The Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (Australia’s largest fund dedicated to bilateral research) helps Australian researchers to partner with Indian scientists in leading-edge scientific research projects. The Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced a $20 million extension of the AISRF on 5 September 2014, bringing the total Australian Government commitment to $84 million over 13 years.
Australian universities have over 300 agreements with their Indian counterparts to enable academic and student exchange and research collaboration. Many Australian universities have long-term partnerships to facilitate engagement and encourage greater depth of understanding and collaboration with India.
While Australia exports $2.1billion in services to India (the bulk of which is education services), it is clear that this is far below the growing demand for higher education in India. “The CECA has the potential to deliver the strong leadership framework to expand trade in education services enabling Australian universities to contribute to India’s great challenge of skilling up its population”, Ms Robinson said.